news Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - 05:30
The News Minute | December 10, 2014 | 08:52 pm IST On Monday, 200 people from around 57 Muslim families were reportedly ‘converted’ to Hinduism in Agra. The mass conversion was part of a ‘shudhi’ programme organized by the Bajrang Dal and Dharam Jagran Samanvyay Vibhag an offshoot of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh However, the momentum of the furore against the ‘shudhi’ programme seems to have picked up after reports that the RSS said they would conduct a similar event during Christmas. Only this time around, at least 4,000 Christian and 1,000 Muslim families would be converted to Hinduism in a programme called ‘Ghar Wapsi’. BJP MP Adityanath has announced that he will go ahead with a similar event planned in Aligarh on December 25 to convert Christians and Muslims. While political parties like the BSP took up the issue in Parliament, others argued that such a ‘forced’ conversion went against the secular fabric of our constitution. So does Hinduism allow conversion or re-conversion? Though there is no mention of this in the scriptures, the Arya Samaj has a process they call 'Shudhi' through which they reconvert people 'back' to Hinduism. The Arya Samaj says, "Arya Samaj launched shuddhi movement to bring non-Hindus back to Hinduism this process was called shuddhi. The concept of Shudhi played a major roll and a few Arya Samaj leaders recognized the unifying potential of shudhi. The slogan was “India for Indians”. Swami Dayanand Saraswati said that the Destiny of India lay in the revival of the Vedic religion, and gave the slogan “Back to the Vedas”. The Arya Samaj community is known for carrying out mass conversions. When asked about the procedure, a member of the community from Hyderabad, who works in the area of conversion and wished to remain anonymous, said, “We have re-converted people back to Hinduism without any problem. All it takes is one Homam (Puja) around fire and then a couple of signatures on certificates, after which the process in complete”. According to the Arya Samaj, the first recorded shuddhi of a born Muslim was reported in 1877, when Dayanand Saraswati performed the shuddhi of a Muslim man from Dehra Dun, The first attempts by the Aryas at mass conversions of Muslim groups dates back to 1908. One thing that is remains unclear is which caste the person who is reconverted then belongs to. The RSS however does it differently, and prefers not to use the word conversion. But in Agra, the Bajrang Dal seems to have used the Arya Samaj's Shuddhi programme.  The News Minute spoke to Rajesh Padmar, a Bengaluru based RSS member, who defended his organisation’s programme. “Firstly, we do not agree with the use of the term ‘conversion’. We are not converting anyone. We are asking people to return to their ancestral Hindu faith”, he said. “Secondly, it is not forced. We have just given a call initiating the process, and those willing can approach us”, he added. Explaining the RSS’s initiative, Padmar asserted, “All our ancestors were Hindus, some of whom were forcibly converted to other religions such as Muslim and Christianity. So even the present generation of Muslims and Christians and other faiths in India have roots in Hinduism. We all have inherited a common faith." Asserting they have also reached out to victims of forcible religious conversions from across castes and religion, he said, the RSS was urging just those willing to embrace their ancestral faith. The process used to help people ‘return to their ancestral Hindu faith’, as Padmar puts it, usually carried out by priests who conduct ‘yajnas’. Following this, the procedure is complete. Padmar claims that the RSS’s ‘open call’ for the Shudhi programme, a major chunk of which will take place in northern India, has received a huge positive response. There are some who believe that these conversions serve no purpose. One BJP leader who did not want to be named says, "It is not necessary to make Hinduism a proselytizing religion like other Abrahamic religions, Hinduism is happy as it is, always evolving." The RSS, and its offshoots are unabashed about their Shudhi programme, but how will the government handle this new controversy? Tweet

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